Writing to the moment
Kumkum Sangari, Politics of the Possible, Essays on Gender, History, Narratives, Colonial English, Tulika, pp. 503, Rs. 650
Kumkum Sangari's The Politics of the Possible is a literary event. It is arguably the most important book on English/Cultural Studies published in post-independence India. Sangari belongs to a group of Indian, predominantly female, academics from English departments across the country who have brought to Eng.Lit. studies a scrupulously politicised vision and located it firmly at the heart of social and cultural production in India, rather than in an airless New Critical urn, where texts are prodded with ahistorial forks and apolitical knives. Among these critics are Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Ania Loomba, Shaswati Mazumdar, Svati Joshi and Zakia Pathak, and some men like Suvir Kaul, Alok Rai and Aijaz Ahmad. Most of these academics have combined a politicised pedagogic practice with sustained interventions in the social, cultural and political realm within and outside academia. The Politics of the Possible comes out of such a conjuncture and offers us an amazing set of essays that will keep us thinking for some time to come.
The first three essays are directly literary. Two of them deal with the fiction of Henry James and the third is the classic eponymous essay that deals with magic realism - principally as written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (with a bit on Salman Rushdie) - and examines the politics of the production and the reception of this writing. Attentive to the ways in which Marquez builds his politics into his narratives and finely disentangling his practices from a mindless postmodernism and a market that sells this fiction in a particular way, Sangari delineates the dialectical and dialogic sense of history that unfolds in Marquez's fictions. It is by far the finest essay I have ever come across on magic realism and on the politics behind the marketing of 'third world fiction.' The section on Rushdie is not satisfying enough if